Fairfax, VA, June 19, 2014 – SpaceQuest, Ltd. (“SpaceQuest”), a U.S. satellite technology company headquartered in Fairfax, VA , announced today the successful launch of the SpaceQuest-built AprizeSat-9 and AprizeSat-10 microsatellites. The Dnepr launch vehicle, carrying a record-breaking 37 satellites, lifted off from the remote desert of Yasny, Russia near the border of Kazakhstan. The Dnepr rocket is a converted SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile adapted for commercial use. In 1997, Russia and Ukraine formed the International Space Company Kosmotras to convert the missiles into commercial Dnepr launch vehicles.
The mission departed on schedule from Southern Russia at 01:11 local time (19:11:11 UTC). Fifteen minutes later, the two SpaceQuest satellites were successfully separated 650 km in space. As a token of appreciation, the names of all SpaceQuest team participants were carried on board and will now orbit the earth 15 times each day for years to come. Photos of family members were also carried in the satellites. The launch of AprizeSats 9 and 10 followed the successful Dnepr launch of AprizeSats 7 and 8 seven months earlier, on November 21, 2013.
The four AprizeSats were launched into a sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit (LEO) and will operate in the UHF and S-Band frequencies. The satellites are healthy with all subsystems operational. The AprizeSats host SpaceQuest cutting-edge experimental AIS (Automatic Identification System) payloads which contribute to the advancement of AIS technology.
AIS is a maritime tracking and monitoring system that identifies and locates vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and VTS (Vessel Tracking Service) stations. SpaceQuest’s space-based AIS capability greatly expands the visibility of vessel traffic throughout the world’s waterways beyond the typical 50 nautical mile limit of ground-based AIS receivers. By using the AIS equipment already installed aboard over 100,000 vessels worldwide, port authorities, coast guards, governments, and commercial customers can safely and securely obtain global data on ships movements. Information such as ship name, precise location, course, speed, call sign, IMO number, ID and other information are provided.
Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is critical to the safety and security of all nations of the world. With access to space-based AIS global data, national governments can now achieve a level of maritime domain awareness that could significantly impact their security, safety, economy, or environment, including identifying threats as early and as far from their shores as possible. One innovative application of space-based AIS technology is satellite ship detection for fishery violations and control. Fish is a precious natural resource under much pressure from human exploitation. Most countries have regulated fishing in their national waters, and regulations also extend to international waters by means of agreements. AIS data can be used as a tool in this enforcement.
“SpaceQuest has been involved in satellite projects for over twenty years,” said Dr. Dino Lorenzini. “With the expertise of our small and talented team, we have been developing, constructing and launching microsatellites aboard the Dnepr since 2002. We are pleased to add to the advancement of space technology, most recently at the forefront of space-based AIS at a time when there is a growing demand for global maritime surveillance.”
SpaceQuest is a developer of advanced satellite technology for government, university and commercial use for the past fifteen years, specializing in the design, development, testing and manufacture of spacecraft as well as space and ground components for operation with low-earth orbiting satellites. For more information, visit our website at www.spacequest.com.